Feature2 » A Walk With The Boy Who Knew The Mountains

A Walk With The Boy Who Knew The Mountains

BoyAS1 jpgAround 40 adults and children came together on Saturday 10th March in the historical village of Wadi al Hayl, Fujairah. A Walk With The Boy Who Knew The Mountains was an inclusive event to raise awareness for people with special needs. It was organised by Hanady Al Hashmi of ‘Elevation,’ Sarah Dunn, General Manager of the Rising Sun Centre for Special Needs in Fujairah, and Dr Michele Ziolkowski, author of the children’s book ‘The Boy Who Knew The Mountains’. Fujairah Tourism & Antiquities Authority also supported the event. 


Hanady Alhashmi is a well-known Emirati mountaineer. The adrenaline of reaching heights and being amongst the clouded peaks of mountains drove her to follow her dreams. As she looks to complete the popular ‘Seven Summits’ one day and put her country on the global map of mountaineering, Hanady would also like to motivate women and children everywhere to go for whatever they want to achieve, be it big or small. Hanady used mountains and peaks as motivators in her life, as they resembled the limits to which one can push themselves to achieve any goal: seen or unseen. With "A Walk With The Boy Who Knew The Mountains,” her goal was to raise awareness and include those individuals with special needs in a unique event that involved a walk around the mountain village depicted in the book of the same name. Hanady says, “It was a joy to see everyone enjoying the event. They loved the book-reading by Michele Ziolkowski and the colouring session afterwards."


The Rising Sun is a small non-profit facility in Fujairah that looks out for special needs children and young adults of any nationality and background.  It opened in 2014 under the patronage of Sheikha Sarra bint Hamad Al Sharqi.  Sarah Dunn took over the role of General Manager just over a year ago. According to Sarah, “We currently provide, on a daily basis, various therapies including physiotherapy, occupational, speech and language and behavioural, as well as academic training for around 35 students of a variety of ages.” 


“Events like this are so important on a multitude of levels.  Aside from providing a platform for dialogue towards tolerance and acceptance, they also benefit the students immensely.  Many students do not always get opportunities to visit new places or interact with other members of society, so when they get to try a new activity such as this one, it can be a real confidence booster,” says Sarah. 


Sharifa Yateem, MSc Psychology, is a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst, who is currently completing her PhD in Special Needs and Inclusion at the British University in Dubai, commented on the walk in the mountains and the benefits of such an activity. “Exploration and physical exercises are fundamental skills to develop in kids with Special Needs. It teaches them to relate what they learnt at school to the real world. Physical activities builds their gross and fine motor skills, it also builds their ability to use their senses and practice working as a group. These skills are only learnt when they are exposed to their environment and when exploring new experiences.” 

The Boy who knew the Mountains was written for the author’s son, Suhail. It was partially inspired by family outings in the mountains of Fujairah, and by Suhail’s autism and descriptions of life in a small mountain village as described by his grandmother, Moza. The historic village of Al Hayl is situated in a tranquil mountain wadi. “Even at a very young age, Suhail found the mountains of Fujairah to be a peaceful and calm environment,” says the author. According to Michele, “through the book, we hope to foster an understanding and acceptance of individuals on the autism spectrum.  The story is a celebration of the struggles and triumphs of a young boy with autism. What we learn about Suhail is that he is different but not less. We also learn that it is important to accept each other’s differences. We are all different and all special.”    

The event took place at the mountain village of Wadi al Hayl in Fujairah, which is the setting for the children’s book. Students from the Rising Sun Centre for Special Needs and children from the community participated in this event. We walked through the mountain village and visited some of the historical buildings and sights mentioned in the book. Walking through history and culture was inspiring. It also brought the children’s story and the characters to life. After the walk, the author conducted a book reading inside the old courtyard house of the sheikh, followed by colouring-in activities and light refreshments. The community spirit generated by this event was evident.  

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“A Walk With The Boy Who Knew The Mountains was a way of giving back to the community of Fujairah and creating a special event for ‘people of determination’ and their families. It was also a means to help spread the message of tolerance, acceptance and understanding,” says Michele. 


The event organisers wish to thank the Fujairah Tourism and Antiquities Authority for permission to host the event at Wadi al Hayl. Mohammed Saleem, Abdulla Suhail and Adele Myers volunteered to photograph the event. Carol Hyland volunteered her time to assist in setting up the event space on the day. “Our community coming together is what this is all about,” says Michele.


The Boy Who Knew The Mountains is published by Al Hudhud Publishing and Distribution, Dubai and is available at the Rising Sun Centre for Special Needs in Fujairah. 

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